I have just written to Cllr John Thomson, Deputy Leader of Wiltshire Council and Cabinet Member for Communities, to ask why Wiltshire Council saw fit to allow through-traffic in our High Street during the recent Marlborough Jazz Festival.
Until this year, Marlborough’s Jazz festival had offered the one weekend in the year, when Marlborough’s residents, including children and disabled people, also hundreds of volunteers, could wander in the town centre and listen to jazz, blues and African music without being hindered by parked cars and noisy, polluting traffic.
This festival has been running for 20 years and attracts musicians from around the world as well as visitors from outside the town. During this time, through traffic has always been banned from the High Street to allow musicians and revellers to walk between the many venues without having to dodge fast moving vehicles. The Jazz Festival is an integral part of the civic life of our town, not only are we able to enjoy wonderful music on Friday and Saturday, but the local Anglican church also holds a special celebratory service on Sunday morning, featuring some of the jazz musicians.
By allowing through traffic in Marlborough High Street last Saturday:
- The atmosphere was completely changed, such that cars and HGVs were dominating the High Street, rather than pedestrians and the music
- There was a risk of accidents, especially to children and disabled people – parents had to watch their children at all times to prevent them from straying into the road.
- Hundreds of visitors and residents were spilling over the narrow pavements and forced to walk in the road.
- The sound of musicians performing on the High Street was drowned out by the noise of the traffic, while in some cases their audiences had to watch from the other side of a busy road.
- The bandstand which is normally in the road opposite Pino’s restaurant and features young local artists who perform for free, was cancelled.
- Local pubs, restaurants and cafes could not put out additional tables and chairs, for safety reasons.
- Marlborough High Street is in an Air Quality Management Area, which means that spending time in a built up area with heavy traffic can damage health, particularly that of children and the elderly.
Other towns and cities across the UK are banning traffic long term to reduce air pollution.
Wiltshire Council’s failure to implement a traffic ban during this year’s Jazz Festival not only inconvenienced hundreds of music lovers, but also I believe, showed contempt for the people of Marlborough and dedicated musicians that had travelled to our town from all over the world.
Dr Sam L J Page